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Week 14 Game Recap: Minnesota Vikings 20, Arizona Cardinals 23
What you need to know
The offense looked much better with the shorter routes, but the team still isn’t putting much on Teddy Bridgewater
’s plate which limits everyone’s upside. That said, we’ve reached a point where the Vikings are seeing a lot of good defenses and it’s hurting Adrian Peterson
as well. Since blowing up Atlanta in Week 12, Peterson has amassed just 87 yards on the ground with five catches for 23 yards through the air and one touchdown overall. This should revers over the next two weeks against the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, but the fade is disappointing especially in the fantasy playoffs.
With a win Sunday night against the Eagles (or an unlikely Seahawks loss earlier in the afternoon,) the Cardinals can clinch the NFC West, giving them their first division title since 2009. With the Seahawks finally hitting their stride as of late, and a Packers team still very dangerous despite their mid-season sputter, playoff seeding and home-field advantage will prove imperative if the Cardinals want to reach their ultimate goal and punch a ticket to Santa Clara. Coming off 10-days of rest and preparation, and the importance of the game very much on their minds, look for the Cardinals to be firing on all cylinders Sunday night.
|QB Teddy Bridgewater, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 36 - 335 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0|
The best place to start with Teddy Bridgewater
’s performance is probably the last thing he did in that performance. On the final play of the game, Bridgewater was strip sacked on the Arizona 36 yard line on a slow developing play that ran contrary to almost everything the Vikings had done offensively earlier. This time, offensive coordinator Norv Turner called a slow developing play involving several drag routes which would have made it hard for the offense to make it out of bounds. With just 13 seconds left and no time outs, the team couldn’t afford to have a receiver brought down in the field of play, so Bridgewater was told not to turn the ball over. He was also told not to take a sack, but as he waited for the play to develop, Dwight Freeney blew up left tackle Matt Kalil with a spin move and took down the quarterback, knocking the ball away as he did. The Vikings had run a solid game plan for just over three quarters, finally having Bridgewater throw short routes on quick plays, something which seemed to baffle the Cardinals defense. The receivers continued to struggle any time the play called for a deeper route though, and the tough Cardinals secondary just didn’t give an inch. Still, for the majority of the game the Vikings hung in there with short passes. That changed in the last couple of drives, after the start of the fourth quarter. While they still threw short, the team mixed in more and more long shots to little effect since the coverage was good and the receivers couldn’t gain any separation. They settled back into the short-yardage offense leading to Mike Wallace
’s 7-yard touchdown with 4:55 left to play in the game. That play had Wallace running a shallow crossing route from the right side of the field to the left, with Stefon Diggs
running the same route in the opposite direction. The Vikings formation had the strength to the right, and the Cardinals rushed seven players which left just their four players in the secondary. Both safeties rotated to their left (the Vikings’ right side) with one corner pursuing Diggs on his route. The second corner was too slow picking up Wallace, and Bridgewater hit the receiver for an easy touchdown. During the last drive, Turner changed things up though. Mixing in longer (and slower) developing routes caused a sack, caused Bridgewater to check down more than once and threw off the rhythm the offense had developed. The good news is, the short and quick passing game is viable with Bridgewater and this offense. The bad news is we know Turner still loves deep routes that his receivers are unable to break free on.
|RB Adrian Peterson, 56 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 69 - 1, Rec: 1 - 17 - 0 (1 targets)|
During the opening drive, Peterson ran hard and angry, averaging 9.5 yards a carry and capping it off with a touchdown and including a fantastic 21-yard run through the “2” hole which featured a pair of very nifty jump cuts. Peterson then showed great vision and a few nice moves to avoid or break tackles on his 9-yard touchdown run. After that though, Peterson was held up more often than not at the line of scrimmage and he gained just 31 yards on 19 carries with a 1.6 yards per carry average. He still broke a few 6 or 7 yard runs where he showed his ability to get skinny through a tight hole or catch the edge off tackle, but the Cardinals stacked the box on too many downs and hit him at or behind the line of scrimmage, which limited his overall impact for the second game in a row.
|RB Matt Asiata, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 0 (2 targets)|
Only on the field for seven snaps, Asiata blocked for most of them and caught two passes on dumps from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
|RB Zach Line, 6 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 24 - 0 (1 targets)|
Line took a short 3-yard pass on a 1st and 20, turned upfield while shaking a block, then rumbled up the sideline for a first down and then some. He showed nice power and good balance on the play, his only target on the day.
McKinnon was in just a few times in relief of Adrian Peterson
and caught one shovel pass in that time.
|WR Jarius Wright, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 51 - 0 (6 targets)|
Wright’s biggest play of the day was just about the worst one possible, as he had the ball punched out of his grasp while he was trying to advance it after a catch in the second quarter. Luckily for him, the Cardinals didn’t take advantage of the turnover, but the Vikings were in field goal range and could have used that three points down the stretch.
|WR Mike Wallace, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 42 - 1 (5 targets)|
For the first time in a long time, Wallace and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
got on the same page and the result was a touchdown. On the 7-yard score, Wallace ran a shallow crossing route from the right side of the field to the left, which was mirrored by Stefon Diggs
going in the opposite direction. The The Cardinals had just four players in pass defense, which should have been enough to cover the three Vikings receivers on routes. However, both safeties rotated to their left (the Vikings’ right side) with one corner pursuing Diggs on his route. The second corner was too slow picking up Wallace, and Bridgewater hit the receiver for an easy touchdown.
|WR Stefon Diggs, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (7 targets)|
Whereas earlier in the year, Diggs and Teddy Bridgewater
seemed to share a brain and were always in sync. On Thursday, Diggs had to deal with Patrick Peterson and was not up to the task for the most part. Bridgewater also seemed to be so concerned with Peterson making a play that his throws were well off the mark. Bridgewater seemed to throw a little too high or a little too out of Diggs’ reach as the quarterback tried to make sure the pass wasn’t intercepted.
|WR Adam Thielen, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)|
Thielen had one catch on a short out route and nothing else. He isn’t a factor in most games, unless it was on special teams.
|TE Kyle Rudolph, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 67 - 0 (6 targets)|
Rudolph has become one of Teddy Bridgewater
’s most reliable targets as the season has progressed and he caught all of his targets on Thursday night. Almost all of his receptions were short-to-medium distance and he did a solid job of hanging onto the ball even when he was hit. He often found himself dealing with safety Tyrann Mathieu, who while somewhat undersized is a physical and powerful player and who was able to limit Rudolph’s ability to add yards after the catch.
Pruitt made his few snaps count, most notably on a 32-yard catch with two minutes left in the first half. On the play, Pruitt ran a deep cross which split the defenders and allowed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater
to deliver the ball to a wide open target. Pruitt had enough of a gap before he reached a defender that was able to add a few yards to the total.
|TE Rhett Ellison, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 41 - 0 (1 targets)|
Ellison continues to prove himself a tough runner after the catch. On his one reception, Ellison caught a short pass and turned upfield with a blocker leading the way. Once he lost that blocker, he ran through an arm tackle, jukes another defender, and rumbles for several more yards before being caught from behind.
|QB Carson Palmer, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 35 - 310 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 3 - 0|
The box score for Palmer’s game on Thursday shows a game much in line with the MVP performances he has been putting together all season, but in reality Thursday was a much more disjointed effort than the stat line indicates. Palmer’s accuracy, pocket presence, and ability to spread the ball around were all on display, but struggled more than usual pushing the ball downfield, with both touchdown passes featuring significant yards after the catch. The 65-yard touchdown pass to John Brown
featured roughly 45 yards after the catch, while Michael Floyd
’s 42-yard score involved some 35-yards of YAC. This is not meant to denigrate Palmer’s performance, he routinely drove his team down for scoring opportunities, including a crucial drive late in the 4th-quarter for the eventual game-winning field goal, it just was a little bit sloppier than anyone anticipated with so many Viking defensive injuries. Nevertheless, playing on a Thursday prevents proper preparation, but Palmer was able to overcome the obstacles and some less than stellar pass-protection to walk away with a crucial win in a tight NFC playoff race.
|RB David Johnson, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 92 - 0, Rec: 5 - 31 - 0 (7 targets)|
In his second start, Johnson showed impressive patients in reading his blocks and the strong, explosive running we have begun to get used to. For much of the game Johnson outplayed his counterpart, Adrian Peterson
, and was aided by impressive run blocking from the left side of his offensive line all evening long. Johnson came close to the end zone twice on Thursday, first dropping an easy pass after an angle-route out of the backfield that would have led to a walk-in score, and then later in the game going down on a shoe-string tackle at the 2-yard line that was initially ruled a score. That play, a 24-yard run which was Johnson’s longest of the night, highlighted all his best attributes, patiently waiting for his blocks to set up before exploding around the edge and down the sideline with near break-away speed. Johnson once again came up just short of the 100-yard mark, but impressed in nearly every other way. In addition to mostly showing off his excellent receiving abilities, Johnson never once put the ball on the turf, his Achilles heal all season long. Despite the injuries at the position, the Cardinals run game has not appeared to skip a beat with Johnson filling in.
The team is hopeful Ellington will be able to return next week on Sunday Night Football against the Eagles.
Despite being widely considered the best blocking wide receiver in the NFL, it is an odd occurrence when Larry Fitzgerald
’s biggest highlight of a game comes not on a spectacular catch, but from a demolishing block. Fitzgerald had fairly pedestrian numbers in the passing game, and even failed to secure the type of difficult catch late in the game that he has forever been known for, but on Michael Floyd
’s 42-yard touchdown reception, Fitzgerald made his mark on the game and the Vikings secondary. In a likely mistake, both Fitzgerald and Floyd ended up in the exact same spot, running out routes to the first down marker on the sideline with Fitzgerald having just a bit more depth than Floyd. Palmer’s pass looked to target both receivers, but it was Floyd who caught it and turned up field with Fitzgerald in front of him. Fitzgerald drove the Vikings defender 10-yards before tossing him into the ground, assisting Floyd in scoring untouched.
|WR Michael Floyd, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 102 - 1 (9 targets)|
While Fitzgerald stole the highlight on Floyd’s biggest play of the night, Floyd was undoubtedly the highlight of the receiving corps on Thursday. Floyd led the team in targets on his way to collecting over 100-yards for the 4th time in his last 5 games, making important chain-moving catches and showing off some impressive hands and body control on a few sideline throws. Finally healthy and fully incorporated into the offensive game plans, Floyd is showing off the potential that has had Cardinals fans so excited with a great deal more consistency than ever before. If Floyd can ever go a stretch of games without catching the injury bug that has found him at seemingly the most inopportune times, then the sky is the limit for the still-young wide receiver.
|WR John Brown, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 78 - 1 (5 targets)|
After weeks of dealing with hamstring issues, a fully healthy John Brown
has gone back to his playmaking ways, using his incredible speed to make his mark on a game in a single play. On Thursday, Brown did just that to provide the Cardinals with their first touchdown of the evening. Lined up in the slot to Palmer’s right, with the team at their own 35-yard line, Brown sold his route as a deep-in towards the middle of the field but after a jab-step inside, broke his route to the sideline for a deep-out route. In that process, Brown managed to shake free of his defender leaving him wide open for Palmer to find with ease, despite a broken down pocket. Much like on Floyd’s touchdown, Brown had his own end zone escort in the form of fellow speedster J.J Nelson. As Brown scampered down the sideline, Nelson provided the necessary downfield blocking to free Brown from both of the Vikings would-be tacklers, giving Brown a clear path into the end zone. Brown accumulated over 83% of his yards in the game on that one 65-yard touchdown play.
|TE Darren Fells, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 43 - 0 (4 targets)|
The addition of Jermaine Gresham
late in the offseason may have in part prevented Fells from having the breakout season many predicted for him (not to mention the tremendous receiving corps, and quality run-game,) in his absence the last few weeks Fells has shown himself to be the quality outlet those predictions were based on. Big-framed and athletic, Fells provides Palmer with an impressive catch radius to find as a last read, and Fells by and large has made the most of those plays. His 43-yards outgained Larry Fitzgerald
, and his 26-yard catch and run ended up being the Cardinals 3rd longest play from scrimmage. The Cardinals very much could use Gresham’s return as a blocker, especially in the run game, but Fells has proven himself more than capable of handling the bulk of the receiving targets and making the most of them.